Home generators offer a solution to power up your home when there are outages. You can keep the refrigerator running, lights on and air conditioning going. Here are some tips to consider when purchasing a home-generator system:
How Much Power?
Think about how much power your large essential appliances need. Refrigerators, air conditioning, sump pumps and electric water heaters will have the highest power draw and are some of the most essential items you want to have live during power outages.
Many generator manufacturers will have online wattage calculators to help you determine what size you will need. Or, calculate the number by finding the wattage rating for each appliance. It will say: “Starting Watts” (how much power used when first turned on) and “Running Watts” (how much power used once running.) If only the “Running Watts” is listed, multiply that number by three. A small- to medium-sized home usually averages 5,000 to 7,500 watts.
Here are some sample appliances and their average watts:
Refrigerator: 600 watts
Sump Pump: 1,500 watts
Portable Heater: 1,500 watts
Window A/C: 1,000 watts
Lights: 60–600 watts
Computers: 60–300 watts
Size of the Generator and Noise
You will need to place the generator close to your home. Fire protection code requires a generator to be five or more feet away from doors and windows. Smaller generators are permitted to be 18 inches from an exterior wall. (Larger generators are around 30″x30″x48″. Smaller versions are 24″x24″x36″.)
The noise factor will be a consideration in what type of generator you purchase. Most generators have an average of 60 to 70 decibels. By comparison a vacuum cleaner usually has 70-80 decibels.
Fuel for the Generator
Generators either use liquid propane, natural gas or both Propane gas is affordable and burns “clean”. It’s easy to find at hardware stores, gas stations and many grocery stores. Generators that run from natural gas can be tied to the home’s natural gas line.
There are solar-powered generators to consider as well. This innovative system is connected to a breaker panel. It can provide about 3000 Watt hours. Solar panels and expansion batteries can be added to recharge for endless power. Systems range from $2,200 up to $8,000. Read more about this type of generator.
Benefits of a Home Generator
A home generator good for 5,000+ watts will be set to take over (with its Automatic Transfer Switch) as soon as power goes out. Some models have a remote start button.
Smaller units with up to 2,000 watts cost between $400 and $1,000. They are the lightest type of generator and can be easily transported.
Mid-sized units with up to 3,500 watts range from $1,000 and $1,700. This type of equipment can keep the refrigerator and lights running for 8–18 hours using 2–3 gallons of gas. If you rarely have black outs, this might be an option for your home.
If you rarely have black outs, a Portable Generator is another good option. These type of devices provide power to specific appliances such as the refrigerator. With up to 7,500 watts, the price will range from $700–$2,800. (Note: many of these generators can weigh up to 300 pounds!) If you use this type of generator, you will need to be careful about protection from rain or snow.
Large Inverter systems have up to 7,500 watts and cost $1,400–$4,000. These type of appliances are quiet and fuel efficient. They can provide enough power for your refrigerator and small air-conditioning system. They run on stabilized gasoline. Large inverter generators are best for homes with frequent or prolonged power outages.
Home Standby generators have up to 20,000 watts and cost $2,000–$6,000 and will weigh up to 600 pounds. Installation costs can be as much as the cost of the generator. These systems need to be installed permanently next to your home. They run on natural gas or propane. This system should not be exposed to flood-prone areas.
Read more about selecting a home generator here.
Home-Generator Safety Tips:
- Portable generators can produce high levels of carbon monoxide. Be sure to have carbon monoxide (CO) detectors in your home. They should have battery back-up to assure they will work during a power outage.
- A generator should be placed at least 20 feet from the home with the exhaust pointing away from any windows and doors. Never run a portable generator inside your home.
- The generator should be on level ground or a pad, with a generator tent in place to keep it out of the rain. Most generator manufacturers suggest and sell tents for their products.
- The generator needs to be properly grounded so it won’t electrify the puddles of water or wet ground adjacent to it.
- Never “backfeed” your home. You can risk electrocution risk to utility workers using the same transformer or can start a fire. (Backfeeding means powering your home electrical systems by plugging the generator into a wall outlet.)
- Allow time for the generator to cool before refilling it with fuel.
- Check the fuel line periodically for signs of wear or cracks that could cause a fuel leak and subsequent fire.
- Plug only essential appliances such as a refrigerator or freezer directly into the generator outlets. Use a heavy-duty cord when connecting to an appliance.
- Consider having an electrician install a transfer switch directly into the existing circuit breaker panel that can help feed electricity to areas of the entire residence.
- The generator should be started periodically to check it is operational with sufficient fuel and oil to operate quickly and safely.
- If you use a propane or gas-fueled generator, have extra fuel on your property. Store in an approved container in a cool, well-ventilated place. Adding a stabilizer will help the gas last longer.
Need help getting your home’s electric system ready for your home generator? Contact Sibcy Cline Home Services. They can recommend a vetted electrician to help you.